Have you heard the one about how “breast is best” or that “breastfeeding is easy because it’s the most natural thing in the world?” It turns out that a lot of people have a lot to say about breastfeeding and it’s not always very helpful.
Despite all the discussion, debates and judgement, there is still a lot of mystery about breastfeeding and what is actually involved. So we’re here with six home truths about breastfeeding that all new mamas need to know.
1. Breast Is Not Always Best
Let’s be real, “breast is best” has mostly become a thing because it rhymes. Yes, breast milk is full of nutrients and yes, there are lots of wonderful things that come with breastfeeding. But it is not for everyone and that’s OK.
There are so many reasons for choosing an alternative approach to breastfeeding. Some women just straight up don’t want to do it whereas others may be affected by pain, low milk supply, illness, exhaustion, work demands and / or disability. There’s also baby to consider. Some babies have tongue tie, others just aren’t into, and some are too small or sick to be able to breastfeed.
Every situation is totally different and breastfeeding, even when it’s going well, is hard enough without any additional pressure from a silly rhyme. If breastfeeding is becoming a source of unbearable stress or pain for you or your partner, then we would strongly suggest speaking to a midwife or health visitor as soon as possible to get some advice.
2. Natural Doesn’t Equal Easy
Just because breastfeeding is a “natural” form of feeding your baby doesn’t mean it will be easy. For the lucky few, baby might find the breast straightaway and just start guzzling. However, for lots and lots of mums, it is not an easy ride at all and requires a lot of patience, time and effort.
There can be all sorts of issues that arise when embarking on a breastfeeding journey. In the early days of breastfeeding, it can be really painful to feed baby and your nipples might feel like they’re on fire. There’s also a lot to learn about your milk coming in and knowing how to manage your milk supply in order to avoid mastitis or engorgement.
We don’t highlight these issues to put you off but rather so that you know about them and can be prepared. Breastfeeding, for some, can eventually become a really beautiful and easy way to feed baby but it definitely doesn’t mean it will be an easy ride to get there.
3. Milk Supply Can Be A Real Problem
It is sometimes assumed that a woman will just have the right amount of milk as soon as baby is born. This may be true for some, however it is much more common that it will take a number of days, weeks and even months for a woman’s milk supply to regulate.
Milk supply can be really variable for lots of reasons. Medical, hormonal, or anatomical concerns can all have an impact on how much milk is produced. Low milk supply can be really heartbreaking and leave both mum and baby feeling very frustrated. A generous milk supply can cause problems too because baby may not be very comfortable and struggle to drink. Mum can also be at higher risk of mastitis and engorgement when milk supply is really high.
The best way to manage your milk supply is to feed baby regularly, eat nutritious food and drink lots of water. It’s also important to speak to your midwife or health visitors about any problems when they arise so that you can address them straightaway and prevent any unnecessary discomfort.
4. A Comfortable Nursing Bra Will Be Your Best Friend
There is nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable when it comes to your bra. This is never more so than when your boobs have doubled in size, are leaking milk and feeling very, very tender.
Comfort is always the priority when it comes to a nursing bra. You will have more than enough things to deal with after giving birth but do not let an uncomfortable nursing bra be one of them.
Over the past couple of years, there has been an explosion of brands that have recognised that support for mamas after birth is just as important as maternity wear so there are lots more options to choose from. When searching for the perfect nursing bra, we recommend making sure that the material is soft, breathable and super stretchy so that you get maximum comfort from morning to night.
One of our fave brands that does a fantastic postpartum range is Modibodi. This breastfeeding bra comes in two different colours and goes all the way up to a G-cup. Plus, it’s super absorbent so no breast pads are needed either – triple win!!
5. There Are Lots Of Different Nursing Positions
When you think of breastfeeding, it’s easy to conjure up the image of a baby being cradled in their mother’s arms and feeding from the breast. However, it’s important to know that there are lots of different breastfeeding positions you can try with baby and some may work better at different times.
Cradle and cross-cradle are probably the most common positions but there’s also options like reclined feeding, lying down on your side and dangling the boob over baby’s mouth. The best thing is to try different positions and see what you find most comfortable and enjoyable.
We also recommend stocking up on cushions to help give you extra support and make sure you have snacks and water nearby so you don’t have to move again once you’re nice and comfortable.
6. Pumping Is Breastfeeding
Pumping is the act of squeezing milk from the breast and then giving that same milk to baby, usually via a bottle. It is breastfeeding just with an extra step. Some women choose to pump exclusively and some choose to do a combination of nursing and pumping.
Pumping and feeding baby by a bottle is a great way for partners to have some precious bonding time with baby. Pumping is also a great for knowing exactly how much milk baby is getting, which can be useful if baby’s weight needs to be monitored.
Pumping can require more time than breastfeeding and isn’t for everyone but it’s definitely a form of breastfeeding not to be overlooked. There are lots of options nowadays for choosing a pump that’s best for you, including manual or electric options. Elvie is a brand we love for leading the way in designing modern, discreet and speedy pumps.